The People's Peking Man: Popular Science and Human Identity in Twentieth-Century China

The People's Peking Man: Popular Science and Human Identity in Twentieth-Century China

by Sigrid Schmalzer

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Overview

In the 1920s an international team of scientists and miners unearthed the richest evidence of human evolution the world had ever seen: Peking Man. After the communist revolution of 1949, Peking Man became a prominent figure in the movement to bring science to the people. In a new state with twin goals of crushing “superstition” and establishing a socialist society, the story of human evolution was the first lesson in Marxist philosophy offered to the masses. At the same time, even Mao’s populist commitment to mass participation in science failed to account for the power of popular culture—represented most strikingly in legends about the Bigfoot-like Wild Man—to reshape ideas about human nature.
The People’s Peking Man is a skilled social history of twentieth-century Chinese paleoanthropology and a compelling cultural—and at times comparative—history of assumptions and debates about what it means to be human. By focusing on issues that push against the boundaries of science and politics, The People’s Peking Man offers an innovative approach to modern Chinese history and the history of science.  

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226738611
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 05/15/2009
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 368
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Sigrid Schmalzer is assistant professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Conventions
Introduction
 
1. "From 'Dragon Bones' to Scientific Research": Peking Man and Popular Paleoanthropology in Pre-1949 China
            Celestial Clouds and Zip Wires
            A Willingness to Change
            Nationalism and Internationalism
            Tradition, Superstition, Science
            First Contacts
            Who Discovered Peking Man?
            Presenting Peking Man
            Conclusion
 
2. "A United Front against Superstition": Science Dissemination, 1940–1971
            A Role for Scientists in Revolution
            Ghosts into People, Apes into Humans
            The Who and How of Science Dissemination
            Darwin "Strikes A Blow" for Materialism
            Scientists Feel the Heat
            The Pursuit of Monsters
            Conclusion
 
3. "The Content of Human": In Search of Human Identity, 1940–1971
            The Question of a Universal Human Nature
            Labor as the Core of Human Identity
            Primitive Communism
            Peking Man as a National Ancestor
            All the World Is One Human Family
            Conclusion
 
4. "Labor Created Science": The Class Politics of Scientific Knowledge, 1940–1971
            Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approaches to Popularizing Science
            Science Dissemination for Whom, by Whom?
            Ivory Towers and Cow Sheds
            Mass Science
            Paleoanthropology and Popular Culture
            Conclusion
 
5. "Presumptuous Guests Usurp the Hosts": Dissemination and Participation, 1971–1978
            Cultural Revolution Science on Its Own Terms
            A Favorable Time for Popular Science
            Dissemination: Fossils Magazine Strikes a Blow for Popular Science
            Dissemination: Dinosaurs and the Masses at Zhoukoudian 
            Dissemination: Learning about Humanity at Zhoukoudian and Beyond
            Mass Participation: Laborers and Hobbyists
            Mass Participation: Criticism of Scientists
            The Missing Link
 
6. "Springtime for Science," but What a Garden: Mystery, Superstition, and Fanatics in the Post-Mao Era
            Some Other Spring
            Tensions of Reform
            "Opening"
            The Strange and the Mysterious
            "Labor Created Humanity" and Its Post-Mao Fate
            Mass Science and Its Post-Mao Fate
            Conclusion
 
7. "From Legend to Science," and Back Again? Bigfoot, Science, and the People in Post-Mao China
            "Yerén Fever"
            Replacing Superstition with Science
            The Scientific Significance of Yerén
            From Mass Science to Scientific Heroism
            Popular Culture Goes Wild
            Conclusion
 
8. "Have We Dug at Our Ancestral Shrine?" Post-Mao Ethnic Nationalism and Its Limits
            The Scope and Limitations of Chinese Ethnic Nationalism
            Earliest Origins of Humanity
            The Origin of Modern Humans
            Ethnic Nationalism, Defensive and Assertive
            Making a Contribution: China as a Research Center
            Making Connections: China as a Center for the Human Family
            Ancestors, National and Personal
            Choices and Interpretations
 
Conclusion  

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